Ternenge Ende, a journalism lecturer and Head of Mass Communication Department, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, says fact-checking should be a must-have skill for Nigerian journalists to thwart misinformation and fake news, particularly in troubling times.
Ende stated this on Saturday while delivering a paper at the 2022 Press Week in Minna, the capital of Niger State. The event themed: ‘Fact-checking to Curb Fake News: Tasks Before Niger State Journalists Amidst Security Challenges’ was organised by the state’s chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The journalism guru who described fact-checking “as a specialized field of practice, said it is very paramount for journalists to always fact-check a claim as it helps in identifying errors from getting published and achieving accuracy relies heavily on checking and cross-checking.”
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He continued: “Journalism practice has always underscored verification of materials before dissemination. The axiom ‘when in doubt, verify’, is always drummed in the ears of journalism trainees.”
Ende further cited Tom Rosentiel and Bill Kavach’s book (The Elements of Journalism), emphasising the centrality of verification in journalism when authors maintain that fact-checking means a scientific approach to getting not just the facts but the right facts.
Fake news syndrome
WikkiTimes understands misinformation contributes to many Nigeria’s crisis over the time including the revolutionary #EndSARS protest that rocked the country nationwide. Little it has also contributed to the worsening insecurity holding the country to ransom.
Ende noted that fake news is an inborn issue embedded in human’s DNA. Further, he cited Jerry Jerrison, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, saying: “Human beings lie up to 200 or more times daily, and also an average person lies about the same number of times a day. Such lies are generally grouped under white lies or seemingly inconsequential half-truths.”
Domesticating FOIA for Niger State journalists?
In 2011, Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, passed the Freedom of Information (FOIA) Bill, putting a smile on the adjuncts of the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
However, 10 years later, only Ekiti and Imo States, according to The Guardian, have domesticated the bill. The rest 34 states including Niger State are yet to pass it into law.
But Niger State is walking its way through its domestication, according to Dr. Emmanuel Musa, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy.
Musa, who equally spoke at the event, hinted at the state government’s quick plan to domesticate the FOIA. He said the full implementation and domestication of the bill would strengthen journalists in the state to fearlessly request information without bias.
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“We in the state, especially the Ministry of Information and Strategy in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice are working assiduously to see that FOIA 2011 is domesticated,” Musa said.
He however charged journalists to have fear of God while discharging their responsibilities. By this, he urged them to always balance their reports and seek appropriate data to authenticate their facts.
At the same time, the commissioner charged the government at all levels to make data available to journalists “to ease their job, especially, in the aspect of casualties recorded in times of insecurity and among others.”
However, Abubakar Sani Bello, the Niger State Governor, represented by the Secretary to the Niger State Government (SSG), Ahmed Matane said his administration is not disputing the trend of insecurity in the state, “but several reports on social media regarding insecurity are false.”
He acknowledged that the state has lost several investment and trade opportunities to insecurity. But this, according to Matane, has been worsened by the proliferation of false stories about insecurity in the state.
“Fake news has provided unnecessary perception about what is truly going on about insecurity in the state,” Matane said. “Many investors have refused to come to the state, and the state has lost so many opportunities in terms of investments.”